#195 - Freedom, PTSD, war, and life through an evolutionary lens | Sebastian Junger

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Episode Description:

Sebastian Junger is an award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and New York Times best-selling author. In this wide-ranging discussion, Sebastian shares stories from his time as a war reporter and how it shaped his understanding of the psychological effects of combat, including the sacred bond of soldiers, the forces that unify a tribe, and the psychological mechanisms that protect humans from painful experiences. He draws upon his personal struggle with PTSD as he discusses trauma as an all-too-common consequence of war and the importance of community in the healing process. He explains his interest in viewing human behavior through an evolutionary lens, including how it influences his parenting style, and he voices concerns over society’s continuous shift away from our evolutionary roots. Sebastian also tells the story of his near-death experience and his new perspective on the possibility of an afterlife. Additionally, Sebastian shares his thoughts on the mental health implications of current events, such as the pandemic and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and contemplates what it really means to be “free” in modern society.

We discuss:

  • Sebastian’s upbringing and early lessons about the evil of fascism [3:20];
  • Sebastian’s search for a career, interest in writing, and what he loved about tree removal [11:30];
  • How Sebastian became a great writer [19:30];
  • Sebastian’s experience with his Achilles injuries [25:30];
  • Work as a war reporter and his experience in combat in Afghanistan [28:00];
  • Psychological effects of war and Sebastian’s own experience with PTSD [36:30];
  • The sacred bond of soldiers and what Sebastian learned from his time with troops in Afghanistan [48:30];
  • An evolutionary perspective on the forces that unify and bind tribes [1:00:00];
  • Hunter-gatherer societies, dealing with loss, and the ancestral connection to the spiritual realm [1:08:30];
  • Psychological mechanisms that protect humans from painful experiences and the power in giving thanks [1:13:15];
  • How parenting has changed Sebastian, and the incredible pain of losing a child [1:21:15];
  • PTSD and the influence of community on healing [1:32:15];
  • Isolation of modern society and the debate over young kids sleeping in bed with their parents [1:37:45];
  • Why Sebastian doesn’t own a smartphone [1:43:30];
  • Parenting through an evolutionary lens [1:50:00];
  • Sebastian’s near-death experience and new perspective on the possibility of an afterlife [1:54:00];
  • Sebastian’s experience with depression and anxiety [2:12:00];
  • The pandemic’s impact on mental health [2:16:45];
  • Sebastian’s thoughts on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan [2:22:00];
  • Sebastian’s latest book—Freedom, and knowing when to quit [2:27:00];
  • Defining freedom in modern society [2:44:30];
  • More.

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